tv Hardball With Chris Matthews MSNBC March 12, 2010 7:00pm-7:25pm EST
banging the cocktail waitresses but i'm a really good golfer. >> stephanie miller, always a pleasure. great to have you with us tonight. also, in tonight's question, i asked our audience, do politicians care more about your health or getting re-elected? well, 3% of you think that they are really concerned about your health. 97% say, getting re-elected is what it's all about. that's "the ed show." for more information on "the ed show," go to my website wegoted.com. "hardball" starts right now. have a good weekend. the president clears his
calendar for let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm chuck todd in tonight for chris matthews who is still traveling with the vice president in the middle east. leading off tonight, president obama stays for the home stretch of health care. under pressure from some frustrated house democrats, the president decided to officially delay his trip to indonesia to remain in washington for the vote on health care. that vote is expected at the end of next week, perhaps saturday, march 20th. but whether or not the democrats have the 216 votes, they need is still in question. if the house does pass the bill? do republicans have anything left in their arsenal to stop what they believe is the steam roll of reconciliation. senators lamar alexander and judd gregg are threatening to force votes on just about every sentence of the bill creating what could be a parliamentary circus. plus, we'll continue our
look at the contested democratic primary landscape. today, focusing on arkansas. senator blanche lincoln, a centrist, is facing a fierce challenge from the left by the state's lieutenant governor bill halter. we'll talk to halter about why he thinks it's time for lincoln to go. what did bill clinton do right that president obama is not? former white house press secretary dee dee meyers says president obama has a thing or two to learn from clinton. politicians do have a sense of humor. an early look at the top political ads of this young campaign season in the "hardball" "sideshow." let's start with the house's new timetable to pass health care and the president's decision to delay his trip to indonesia. democratic congressman chris van holland of maryland is chairman of the democratic congressional campaign committee. republican congressman thaddeus mccotter of michigan is a member of the financial services committee and chair of the house republican policy committee.
thank you, gentlemen, for both being here. i want to start with something with this from speaker pelosi today on news that the president had delayed his trip leaving for indonesia by three days. here's what she said. >> i'm delighted that the president will be here for the passage of the bill. it's going to be historic. and it would not be possible without his tremendous, tremendous leadership. his persistence, his concern for the american people. >> okay. congress van holland, she set the timetable. i'm delighted the president will be here for the passage of this bill. last night on rachel maddow, she said when you have the votes, you have the vote. the vote's not today so she does not have the votes. but she believes she can have the votes by sunday. obviously this is your leader. you believe this is true? >> sure, i think we can have the votes by sunday, but we don't know exactly when this bill will come up. we're still waiting for the congressional budget office to provide the numbers.
we're confident they will show this will reduce the deficit as both the house and senate bills did. until our members have a chance to take a look at that, it's not going to be fair to ask some of those final votes to make a final decision. >> congressman cotter, the undecided coalition of democrats, another michigan congressman bart stupak. from what you hear on the ground, from what you may hear hear in your own state delegation meetings, where is congressman stupak on this? >> i think one of the reasons i respect art so much is he can express where he's at. one of the things you touched on is the president staying here. i do not begrudge him travel at this point in time, in a time of war. if he wishes to stay, that's fine. it does point out that the difficulty in passing the bill is the democratic centrists that do not support the bill at the time such as bart stupak or the american people. it shows that the democratic
administration, the inherent flaws in this bill and the public revulsion to it is leading democrats to oppose the bill. >> one of the things that's going to be taken up in the reconciliation portion of this, you guys, the house on monday has to start the fixes. you guys will do it in the house, and then you send it over to the senate. one of the items potentially in this fix has nothing to do with health care. it's a student loan bill that the president is very supportive of. a lot of democrats are. why put the student loan bill in this reconciliation fix? >> well, this actually relates to the senate procedure, and the senate parliamentarian have said the two subcommittees have to make sure that independently, the bill is resolved under the budget. in other words, that there's a
resolution. this is a provision that has been part of the reconciliation package from the very beginning under the budget rule. long story short, i think we should look at each of they was things on the merits. on the merits under the education bill, we're saying we will no longer provide money to the banks to be the middle man in terms of student loans. we need to make sure that the students get the money. >> i understand the bill, but this is not about health care. do you wish it were not coming to this, that you need to do this in order to fulfill what the -- >> this is as a result of the budget resolution, that the house and the senate both adopted last year. that budget resolution made provisions for both health care reform, as well as trying to make reform in student loans, so that we could try and get more money to students and away from banks. if i could just point out on the health care reform bill, though, what we're seeing in recent weeks, in the recent polls that are coming out, is the american people are actually, the closer the vote gets, the more support there is for the bill. people are evenly divided even after a lot of misinformation is out there.
that's the latest polling. >> congressman cotter, i was going to point that out as well. it seems as if the polling -- a lot of times politicians say, i don't look at polls, or they look at polls if it supports what they believe. what do you say to the fact that these numbers seem to be moving a little bit, and what a lot of democrats point out is some of the individual things in the bill are popular even if the idea of the whole brand of the bill is not. >> well, i think you're right about that. i think maybe their numbers are moving, people do tend to pick different numbers that they want. one of the things we can look at, chuck, are the actions. today we kept the house democrats, we stayed here today to vote on algae. i'm happy i'm from the great lakes state. what you're seeing is the public is truly coming around to the bill in its entirety, the democratic majority should be more than happy to let their members of congress go home and hear how much this bill is loved by their constituents. what i'm worried about is, the fact that the american people are saying there are parts of the bill they like. if we can come to a principled basis for an agreement that empowers patients and consumers
of health care, allows the market supply of health care to increase, the costs come down and access increases, something can be done. i think why consistently you see the people want us to start from scratch and instead of having a sweeping overhaul they reject. >> will you campaign on repealing this if this passes? is that how you will come pain in november, if you re-elect me, congressman mccotter, i'm going to vote to repeal health care, anything that's passed this year in health care? >> well, i think if it's this bill, yes, i will. if it's anything passed, come together and do something sane and sensible to the american people, we'll look at that. but this bill, yes. again, my position has always been patient center, wellness, try to increase the supply of health care through free market forces. that position will not change and this bill is not in accordance with that principal proposition. >> congressman holland, the wavering democrats are calling you privately and saying i'm getting a lot of help from the
dccc this year. why should i vote for this and potentially vote myself out of office? >> first of all, every member's going to independently look at this bill, talk to their constituents and make a decision. that's why you have the majority of democrats supported the house bill. obviously we had some that didn't. they will look at the senate bill, look at the merger. what we're finding is they are going home and talking to their constituents and their constituents are getting these envelopes that they're opening in the mail from their insurance companies showing 20%, sometimes 50% in increases in premiums. the current system is unsustainable. our colleagues for eight years had an opportunity to do something about this. they did nothing. premiums more than doubled over those eight years. as insurance company profits quadrupled. now, look, i don't know what my colleague is referring to with respect to government-run health care. what we're talking about is giving individuals, our constituents the same kind of
can will choices under the federal employees health benefit plan that he and i and other federal employees have, where you allow the free market to work but you have a referee to look after the consumers' interests instead of throwing everybody over to the insurance industry. >> congressman mccotter, is this senate bill better than the first bill that the house passed? >> no. because it does work from the premise that chris denies, is that it is an attempt by the government to increase control over your own personal health care decisions. >> how does it do that? explain -- >> mandates taxes, half a trillion dollars from senior citizens, medicare, taking and taxing employer provided benefits for working men and women unionized and elsewhere. these are things you do not campaign on. and to say the massive 2,000-page bill with mandates, higher taxes, with more government control over what constitutes wasteful with entitlement spending like for senior citizens is the expansion of a big bloated federal government over average men and women who are struggling is a counter to reality. >> this does seem to be the
basic split, though, between democrats and republicans, is a belief in government doing this, and a belief in not. this is an ideological, philosophical district. >> let's ask the congressional bucket office that looked at the plans to weigh in here. and they have. there are 31 million americans right now who can't afford health insurance, who are going to get covered. the plan they put on the table, at best, covers 3 million. the plan they put on the table does not prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage to people who have preexisting conditions. ours does. look, the fact of the matter is at the end of the day, i think our constituents should have the same kind of choices as members of congress. >> we'll find out this november, possibly the following two novembers who's right on this one. congressman mccotter, thank you. congressman holland. we'll see you on the campaign trail and elsewhere. coming up, what will senate republicans do to try to derail the democrats' plan to use reconciliation to pass those house democratic fixes to health care reform. i'll ask florida republican
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helping you get the most out of every drop. if you can't beat them, mock them. that seems to be the established republican candidate grayson. grayson's in the fight for his new political life with rand paul, ho has all of the energy of the tea party movement, plus his father's libertarian presidential campaign. grayson is up with a new website lampooning his opponent. it shows paul looking something like something out of star trek. paul's been leading grayson in the polls by double digits. grayson's strategy of marginization may be too little, too late. the primary just over two months away. it's on a huge primary day now, may 18th. "hardball" returns after this.
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welcome back to "hardball." the president and democrats are going full speed to the finish line on health care. what can republicans do to stop them? george lemieux of florida is joining me. senator lemieux, what do you understand is going to be the republican strategy starting, it will probably be a week from monday, when the baton is handed off from the house to the senate on these fixes to health care? what is the senate republican plan? >> well, chuck, we're going to do everything we can to make sure the american people know that this is a bad bill, that it's being shoved down the throat of the senate, using a process, this reconciliation, that was never intended for a bill that's going to affect such an important part of people's lives in this country. so we'll be on the floor of the senate. we'll be trying to make amendments. we'll be trying to make sure the rules are followed and we're going to expose this process to the american people just like we did back in december. >> what's wrong with a 50-plus-1 vote? what's wrong with that on its merits?
>> two things. one is this reconciliation process was never intended for something as substantive as health care that affects every person's life, that depends on who's counting. >> the bill's already passed the senate. these are some legislative fixes, whatever you want to call them. but it's a much smaller portion than what you're describing on the senate health care bill, crest? >> well, let's see what it is. we don't know what it is yet, because it hasn't materialized. but if it's going to affect everything from medicare advantage to how medicare works, to how health care works in this country, it's still an issue that is not intended for reconciliation. the second point is, the senate is not supposed to be the body that passes things on an up or down majority vote. that's not what our founders intended. the senate is supposed to be different from the house. george washington said it was
the saucer that would catch the hot coffee and let it cool down a little where we would have sober and deliberative debate. we should have the opportunity to offer amendments, to discuss these issues, and do it in a way that's going to benefit the american people. if it's going to be some crammed-down process of only 30 hours of debate, and take it on an up or down vote, you're basically turning the senate into the house. >> i guess you had a shot at filibustering this vote, this bill, the health care bill back in december, correct? and you had a shot at doing amendments back in december? >> well, we had a shot at doing some amendments. and remember, this bill that's coming over is not that bill. that bill will be the one that the house will take up, if they vote on it, it will pass. this will be a new bill. we have the opportunity and we have the obligation -- you know, look, i represent 18 million people in florida. they want to come up and offer ideas, i've got a fraud prevention idea that some of the folks might think would save $20 billion a year. i should have the right to bring that amendment forward. we should have a right to make this better. traditionally a piece of legislation this important would have lots of amendments, lots of
debate, and we'd have 70 or 80 senators vote in favor of it. this bill's not like that. the democrats have handled it very badly. >> i want to go to this issue of medicare advantage, because it's an issue that is very important to a lot of people. do you think it's been fair to conflate medicare, the government-run insurance program, with medicare advantage, which is a private sort of insurance subsidy that comes from the government? >> well, there's both parts of medicare. medicare advantage -- there are people in my state enjoy it. we have more than 1 million people on it. >> but it's not medicare, crest? it's an addendum, sort of an extra policy you can purchase in addition to medicare, though, correct? >> no, it's another part of medicare. you have medicare part a, part c, part d, a part of medicare, you can opt into it. it is a program that provides a lot of wellness benefits independent of, and better, i think, than normal health care.
hearing care, vision care, wellness care. and seniors in my state like it. now, can it be run more efficiently and effectively? sure. but the idea that we're going to eliminate it potentially is not going to have the seniors in my state very happy. >> i want to move on to -- i want to do local politics there. obviously governor crist appointed you. i would assume you are in favor of governor crist in this primary. what kind of advice have you given governor crist on how to come back from what is turning out to be a very, very deep deficit to marco rubio? >> i think governor crist is going to be fine. this race is just beginning. the election isn't until the end of august. this isn't like the kentucky primary in two months. the election is held the last week of august. there's still a lot of time. governor crist is a formidable campaigner. and if he is underestimated, whoever underestimates him would be at their own peril. florida likes him. >> do you think he's ready to be a u.s. senator? >> well, i'll let the people of
florida decide that. i've worked with marco rubio when he was speaker of the house. his merits will come through and the people of florida will decide whether or not he's ready. this is a contest between him and the governor and who is the best pick. >> there are some, senator martinez the other day, who you replaced, said they were both qualified. you're not ready to say that he's ready to be a u.s. senator? >> he was the speaker of the house in florida. that is a qualification to be a united states senator. that's legitimate. it's not a question of qualification, it's who's going to bring a better vision, of who the people trust, who they think is going to do a better job in washington. i think the people will vote for charlie crist. >> all right. senator lemieux, thanks very much. university of miami today, actually advancing the acc tournament. a little florida love out there today.
>> yeah, the hurricanes, it's all good. >> all righty, thanks for joining us. >> thanks, chuck. >> joining me now, "washington post," chris. before i get to health care, did he not give a ringing endorsement to marco rubio? >> chuck, you and i are not that surprised. george lemieux is charlie crist's guy. he's very clearly with governor crist. one interesting thing about that race, if you look at when the governor's poll numbers started to dip, it started to happen when his number one guy, his lead strategist, george lemieux, got appointed to the senate. there are a lot of people who say without lemieux there, sort
of guiding crist, he's gotten off track. no one there to run the race. and no one who really knows charlie crist like george lemieux knows him, like karl rove knew george bush. you see a singular strategist know that politician. with him up in washington, he can't manage the strategy down in florida. >> let's go to the health care debate. the president delaying the trip. he's got to stay here for the house vote. we heard behind the scenes house democrats screaming at this idea. >> what becomes a problem? i was talking to one senate democratic leader who said, look, we're going to sign, we're going to get some sort of assurance to the house that we're going to get the votes done so they can make their vote. at that point -- >> i do think politics changes over 24, 48, 72 hours. i do think there are a lot of nervous senate democrats. can they get them all in line? can harry reid get them all in line? maybe he can because the white house is going to say, we have to have this. there's no debate if the house gets this done, we have to get
it through promptly. i'm not saying that i have reporting that. i'm just saying if you look at the process, that we've been through, i think assuming that things are going to happen, has gotten all of us into some trouble, as we've seen -- or this bill would have been passed in august of 2009. >> i want to ask a very fix-ish question. something you love to talk about. number one, the litmus test. will the vote for reconciliation be a litmus test for blanche lincoln, arlen specter in those democratic primaries? >> i think they will. >> if blanche lincoln decides not to go with reconciliation, that's going to be a talking point. >> i think blanche lincoln, the problem for blanche lincoln, she may be already too far down that road. this is the same problem if she decides she doesn't want to vote for reconciliation, she can say, i wasn't for this, but i voted for health care. you can't be half pregnant in politics. we both know that. the same reason that she's not going to ultimately vote against parental passage. she's already voted for
something -- >> she's the only one here. we assume -- >> bennett and specter are going to vote for it. arlen specter has been a more liberal -- >> repeal. to be successful in a republican primary, you have to say you're going to repeal? >> i don't know about this. because to be successful in a republican primary maybe, but i'm not sure that's what people want. remember, people want to believe that the republican party has solutions. whether or not the party offers them. repeal sounds a lot like the party of no, which they want to stay very far from. >> interesting. chris, mr. fix, of the "washington post." thanks for being here. up next, from the funny to the ri